tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Jun 23 18:23:25 2009

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Re: Klingon orthography (was: Okrand at qep'a')

Michael Roney, Jr. (

I'm gonna go off on a Google tangent for a second here.
Google has problems searching in many languages, not just Klingon.

Q vs q is the least of your worries.

Try searching for my sister-in-law, Ginea. Google will assume that you can't spell and that it knows best, so they will ask you if you really meant a small animal. You didn't, so you continue to the results.

Google continues to think that they know best, and you are given results that DO NOT match your specified search paramaters.

Let's say you heard this joke about an Irish lady wanting to vote for fellow Irishman, O'Bama.
Google ignores the apostrophe.

Its and it's are the same word. Hawaiian also uses ' as a full-fledged consonant. Google doesn't care.

We have the language code tlh (thank you). What good is it? Google doesn't use it.

Google is full of flaws. Don't use their shortcomings to justify change.


-Michael Roney, Jr.

--Sent from my Palm Preghunchu'wI' 'utlh wrote:

(My first reply from early this morning seems to have been eaten by the
Internet. I'll try to find it and resend it later.)
On Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 1:06 PM, Michael Everson wrote:

> Over the years I have thought, and thought, and thought again about
> the Latin orthography for Klingon...
> Can't we do something to improve it? I wonder if this could be raised
> with Marc Okrand. WIth all respect to him, his orthography has several
> rather serious shortcomings.

I believe you're pulling together things from very different categories,
each with different underlying technical concepts, in order to count

> The first shortcoming is very serious indeed, in terms of data
> integrity. Since "q" and "Q" are used as separate letters of the
> alphabet, words cannot be distinguished in, for example, google
> searches.

That's a shortcoming of Google, not of the underlying data. Case-sensitive
searching isn't a mythical technology, nor is it even rare. If it's an
important enough issue, we can ask Google to make it easily available to its
users. But would any of your proposed reforms be any more searchable using
Google? I can't type half the characters you're using -- heck, I can't *see*
some of them.

The answer to this complaint: Don't rely on Google for this, because Google
doesn't do the right thing.

By the way, for someone who apparently cares about capitalization, your
lowercase rendition of the name "google" is a bit jarring.

> If a casing operation is accidentally applied to a run of
> Klingon text (say, upper-casing or lowercasing), the original text
> cannot be reconstructed. Okrand had other considerations when he
> designed Klingon orthography all those years ago, but now that we
> manage Klingon as data, a reform should be considered.

If any nonreversible operation is accidentally applied to any data, the
original is lost. This is a consequence of the very nature of a
nonreversible operation, not a shortcoming of the data itself.

> The second shortcoming is practical. In many fonts, the letters "I"
> and "l" are nearly identical. This can impede reading.

This is a shortcoming of the font used, not of the underlying data. The same
can be said about the difference between i and j in some fonts, or g and q,
or c and e, or even a and o. My own handwriting makes "n" and "u" look
similar, often to the point where each looks more like the other than it
does itself.

The answer to this complaint: don't use a font that uses indistinguishable
symbols for different letters.

Or just get used to it, because in practice, it isn't really a problem in
actual Klingon text. The CV(C) structure of syllables cuts out any potential
ambiguity. It only impedes reading if you can't read Klingon in the first
place -- or if you use a sans-serif font to view words that have too many
adjacent I's and l's in them. :)

{tlhIllIj lI' lIlI'lI' jIllI' 'Il} "Your sincere neighbor is transmitting
all of you your useful mineral."

> The third shortcoming is aesthetic. Because it eschews casing in
> general, Klingon text cannot take advantage of ordinary typographic
> conventions, which, in fairness, make any text easier to read.

Feh. I can't agree that having variant forms for the same letter does
anything to ease the job of the reader. I would argue the opposite: having
the same shape for a word wherever it appears makes the text easier to read.
If there is no difference between A and a, why require both of them in the
same typeface?

> The Klingon alphabet is:
> a b ch D e gh H I j l m n ng o p q Q r S t tlh u v w y â??

Yes, that's the standard Romanized transcription of the sounds of Klingon.

> ===
> In IPA this is
> [a b tÊ? É? É? É£ x ɪ dÊ? l m n Å? o pÊ° q qÏ? r Ê? tÊ° tɬ u v w j Ê?]

No, it's not. I can't type the symbols, but the second character you've
chosen in the {ch} sound should definitely not be the same as the {S} sound.

But if we render the sounds of Klingon using IPA, wouldn't that be enough to
address your needs?

> Replacing H q Q with x k q is a handy idea, if diacritics are to be
> shunned, though this will change wordforms quite a lot for anyone used
> to reading Klingon already.

Wouldn't *any* spelling reform change the wordforms? If you're still worried
about Google searches, you might as well stick with an already-existing
convention: keep the H, use X for the {tlh} sound, G for {gh}, C for {ch},
and F for {ng}. The other problem character is the apostrophe, which gets
replaced with the last unused letter of the English alphabet: Z.


This has the advantage of being expressable using ASCII, Morse, semaphore,
Braille, TTY/TDD, typewritten notes, handwritten notes, and basically any
communication medium devised that can handle English.

I want to know what your real goal is, though. Are you concerned with the
representation of the characters in data, with the ability to manipulate the
data, or with the visible appearance of the glyphs? I know you understand
that they are completely separate issues, so mixing them in your enumeration
of shortcomings seems confusing.

-- ghunchu'wI'

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